If You Show Favoritism…

...You Might Be a Bad Boss

If you ever talk to a parent of multiple children and ask them if they have a favorite of the bunch, they’ll always tell you “No. I love all my children equally.”

But they’re lying.

Having a favorite child doesn’t mean you love one and hate the others.  It simply means that there is a special connection in at least one area that makes them connect just a little bit differently and closer to you.

It’s normal.  And if you’re a smart parent, you’ll never share this with your children.

Even Jesus played favorites.  Out of all the people who wanted to hang out with him, he hand-picked 12.  And from those 12 he had a special group of favorites, Peter, James, and John.  And according to John, HE was “the disciple that Jesus loved.”

But of course you know that there is a dark side to favoritism.  It happens when you happen to be the non-favorite.  In the workplace this is a huge issue.  And if you SHOW favoritism, you’ve created a huge mess.

There are two types of favoritism.  Legitimate and perceived.  Of the two, perceived favoritism is the worst one.  Let’s look at them.

Legitimate favoritism.  This is when you allow the normal special affinity you might have for one of your direct reports (their promptness, neatness, thoroughness, etc.) become known by overtly calling attention to it (“Hey why don’t you guys work hard like Jake does?”) or by giving plum assignments to Jake which will of course get employees to start referring to Jake as the “golden child” and resenting him.  Now of course if Jake is a stellar employee, he should be used as the standard of quality and also be given challenging assignments that align with his abilities but how you do this and how you communicate this will impact the reactions of the other employees.

Perceived favoritism.  Perception is reality in the eye of the perceiver.  If your employees believe you have a “golden child” they will look for examples of how you treat them compared to the rest of the team.  Sadly, you might only call attention to that employee once but since the rest of the team is watching for it, they’ll see the “favoritism” in action and make a note of it.  This issue may never be resolved but at least if you’re aware of it, you can work hard to prevent it from becoming a habit.

Issues Cause By Favoritism:

  • Apathy
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Lack of trust
  • Underperformance
  • Back-stabbing
  • Loss of your credibility

How to Prevent it From Becoming an Issue

Awareness! Start paying attention to:

  • How much time you spend with each employee
  • Who you give good assignments to
  • Employees who you have something in common with (military background, sports, hobbies, etc.). Are you subtly affinitizing with them?

In my experience, most bosses swear they don’t play favorites.  If it comes across to employees like they do then it’s up to the boss to make the adjustments.  A workforce that feels favoritism will absolutely underperform.

As the boss, YOU have the responsibility to fix this.


I Have a Bad Boss. What Can I Do About It?

If you’ve never had a bad boss, trust me, one day you will.  Those of us who have had one (or many) have felt the pain and agony and frustration that the bad boss causes.  I’ll be addressing bad boss behaviors as part of my focus but first it might be a good idea to talk about how we ought to handle having the bad boss.

Option #1:  Overlook the bad boss’s behavior and focus on the task at hand.  Depending on what the behavior is, we might have to take this option.  Depending on the health of the economy or the scarcity of jobs at the time or the career goals you might have, simply focusing on the task and trying to compartmentalize the bad boss behavior might be your best choice.  During my 15 years in the Navy, I had no choice but to do this.  Without the positional authority to do otherwise, I simply gritted my teeth and pushed on.  Yes, it was stressful and yes I hated Mondays but what else could I do?  Now this does not apply to behavior that is illegal or immoral. You have a responsibility to report it and have no obligation to take it!  If the behavior falls into this category, be sure to document the behavior accurately and contact HR immediately.

Option #2: Confront the bad boss.  This option takes guts but it can work.  If you’re going to do it, be sure to have your documentation current and be prepared to state facts, not opinions or perceptions.  One option is this:

To the Boss who discounts my ideas in front of my peers

When you discounted my ideas in front of my peers at today’s staff meeting

I felt insulted

Because my ideas are done out of concern for our company and my concern to add value

What I’d prefer is that you criticize me or my ideas in private

Because I’d rather not be embarrassed in front of my peers

What do you think?

The idea here is to state facts and to be assertive.  Also, be sure to do this in private as well and do it in person, not by email or text!

Option #3:  Quit your bad boss.  I know it’s not always possible but if this relationship is causing you mental or physical stress, it might not be worth it to stay. If you’ve made the decision to leave, be sure you have at least a few strong job leads.  Also, don’t make a big deal when you head out the door.  As much as possible you should leave with grace and dignity and hopefully at peace with your decision.  Your bad boss will eventually cause their own demise and there is no need to make a big production as you move on.  If you felt this way, you should have tried Option #2 at least once.  Then of course, let it all go.  No sense allowing the bad boss to remain alive in your memory or your attitude.  This is harder than it sounds.  Don’t ask me how I know this!  Also, don’t mention the bad boss when you get your new position.  Start fresh.

Having a bad boss doesn’t need to be a rite of passage but it seems like we all have to experience it at least once.  I’ll be working on preventing bad boss behavior but do your best to hang in there and make the most of the opportunity.  And NEVER let your experience make you a bad boss!

The Worst Boss of All Time

Actually just the first of many...

In the summer of 1982, just days after my high school graduation, I began a six-month program in dental laboratory technology. Dental lab technology is the study and practice of building dental devices such as crowns, bridges, and dentures.  This fit nicely into my interest and skills in building model airplanes and dioramas.  Part of the program involved doing a short internship in a local dental lab.  I was assigned to work with a dentist named Cordell Riley at his facility, Modern Denture Institute in Orange, CA.

There was nothing modern about MDI and under Dr. Riley, it was more like an institution than an institute.  MDI boasted that it could make a full set of dentures in one day for $200.00.  To accomplish this, sanitary conditions were questionable at best, materials cheap, and of course, at a mere $10.00 per day as a salary for me, so were labor costs!  This was a modern-day sweatshop.  I worked from 8 am to 6pm with no breaks or even a lunch break.  The pace was fast and Dr. Riley micro-managed all of us.  When there was a brief break in the action, I was assigned other duties such as picking up his wife from the beauty parlor.  Mercifully, the internship finally ended and as I picked up my last, tiny check, Dr. Riley quipped that I should have paid HIM for the experience I got.  What I got was my first taste of what it was like to work with a BAD BOSS!

But that’s me.  I’m sure you have your own Worst Boss Ever story.  I’m going to start a series on bad bosses and how to deal with them.  If you have a bad boss, I’ll offer coping strategies.  If you ARE the bad boss, I’ll hopefully help you see what you need to do to improve.

Life is too short to be miserable at work.  Since bad bosses account for most of the misery folks experience at work, I think we ought to do something about it.  Are you in?

The Wrong Way to Solve a Problem

remoteWhen faced with a problem, what do you do?

Some people rise to the occasion.  They are at their best when chaos reigns and solutions seem elusive.  They don’t show emotion, think and act rationally, and have a knack for making a tough situation seem rather ordinary.  We admire people like that.

And then there is everyone else…

One of the biggest challenges for my mom was learning new technology.  It seemed to grow in prominence in her life even as she aged.  My dad described her method of problem-solving a misbehaving computer or a confusing remote was “push every button until you figure it out.”  That of course never worked.  Their DVD player played every one of their movies in French until my son was able to fix it for them.

Sadly, that’s how most of us solve a problem.  We don’t really know what the root issue is so we go after the surface solution and try multiple attempts without documenting or testing anything which results in the occasional fix, but most often, a more complicated situation.

What’s the best way to solve a problem?  Try this approach:

Step #1:  Specifically define the problem.  This means name the problem.  Rather than “The TV’s broke” say “I can’t seem to figure out how to change the language from French back to English.”

Step #2:  Get out all documentation and manuals you have.  Intuition works occasionally but why reinvent the wheel when you can refer to some documentation.

Step #3:  Work systematically while testing and documenting each step.  Take a step.  Test the result.  Write down what the result was.  When you get a step correct, take the next step.  Stop, document, and move on.  Then, when the problem is solved…

Step #4:  Document everything you did.    This way you have more data to use when you need Step 2 in a similar problem.

This is the standard way to solve a technology problem but it can certainly work in other areas.

  • “John is a terrible employee”  (Vague, subjective, and not very specific)
  • “John is unreliable”  (Better, but still not specific.  What makes him unreliable?”
  • “John never seems to be here when we need him” (Still better, but more specific please?)
  • “John has been late 5 times in the past 2 weeks.”  (Now we have something to work with!!!)

Work through the steps using documentation from time and attendance, the HR handbook, and of course any previous performance documentation.  Then sit him down and figure out why he’s been late and get him to fix it.  Rather than trying a bunch of solutions to motivate John, be sure to go through this methodically.

Our organizational value is quantified by how well we solve or prevent problems.  Try these four steps next time you get challenged by a problem.



Are Your Incentives Actually Incentivizing?

Still want to chew gum during the test?

Still want to chew gum during the test?

In my job working with organizations and business I often hear about new initiatives designed to build employee engagement.  Engaged employees, as the rationale goes, are more productive and loyal.  That’s a good thing.  The key of course is to figure out how to engage them.

Some companies try to be competitive with pay and benefits.  Others design educational and professional development incentives.  Some attempt to be Google, implementing organizational redesign with open workspaces, game rooms, and elaborate cafeterias.

And then there are those who use privileges to win over employees.  That’s also effective.  When done in the right spirit.

A colleague of mine shared the note that you can read in this blog.  It was given to all the kids in his daughter’s class in preparation for the standardized tests that are given each Spring.  The school was going to allow students to chew gum or Lifesavers during the test as a privilege, but first each student AND their parents had to sign a contract.  The gum chewing right came with a laundry list of requirements and rules.  What was designed to incentivize students was really no different than the standard set of rules they had to follow each day.  When the privilege has caveats, it ceases to be a privilege.

The idea of motivating people hinges around the concept that people are satisfied when they get WHAT they need, WHEN they need it.  Pay is only a part of it although to be fair, should be enough.  Privileges, like casual dress and bring-your-dog-to-work day should be those little surprises that dazzle and provide a spike in productivity.  But those privileges lose their luster when accompanies by a bunch of rules.  Granted, standards are important.  Provocative or offensive clothing can be a liability and nobody wants to step in dog crap when walking to the copier.  The rules are fine if the spirit of the privilege is not lost.

Which brings us to the gum-chewing contract.  With the fear of punishment high, combined with the added stress of standardized testing, I’m thinking students enter the test with lower morale than if gum was just outlawed.  The incentives just won’t incentivize.

So if your organization want to use incentives, keep the following in mind:

  1. Make the incentives special and limited in time.  Getting people accustomed to the incentive leads to it being seen as a right.  Now you’re stuck leaving it in place for good.
  2. Make the incentive something that the employee would want, not necessarily what you would want.  While I would love a new firearm as a gift, I’m pretty sure my wife wouldn’t see it as an appropriate anniversary gift.
  3. Make the incentive as rule-free as possible.  When privileges come with a host of regulations and rules, they just aren’t as special.
  4. Make the incentive as condition-free as possible.  My ex’s father paid to have the kitchen in her condo refurbished.  His condition was that she had to get rid of her pets and her son couldn’t fry doughnuts in the kitchen.  I’m not sure a gift should have that many conditions.

All of us love to give and get privileges.  Before giving them, take a moment to run through the checklist.  You don’t want your well-intentioned gift to have a negative impact.









Worst Things First

fish headsHave you ever had one of those days where you knew you had an unpleasant task to take care of but didn’t want to do it?  It may have been a call to return with an unhappy client.  Maybe an uncomfortable conversation with an employee.  Perhaps it was a sales call that you were terrified of.

If you’re like me (or most people for that matter) you probably lost sleep the night before and once at work, began to barricade your time with busywork that would occupy every corner of the day and prevent you from the task.  If you did this correctly, you could honestly say that you would have made that call or had that conversation but were slammed with crisis after crisis.  That bought you some peace, until you came home and realized that unpleasant item would now be waiting for you the next morning…only now the situation would be even more difficult to deal with.

Pain avoidance is normal.  Most of us hate pain and our nature is to do anything to never have it.  Sadly, avoiding just won’t work in most cases.  I’ve learned over time that the best way to deal with it is to use a variation of one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits for guidance.

In 1989, Stephen Covey authored one of the most popular business books of all time,

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  In this book, he detailed principles for personal and professional success.  One of them, First Things First, was clear guidance for priority and time management.   I modified that one into:

Worst Things First

Like ripping off a Band-Aid, eating your Brussels sprouts first, or doing things like making the scary call or having that dreaded conversation, getting stuff out of the way is the best way to power through.  The longer an uncomfortable task is avoided, the harder it will be to recover from it.

Years ago, when stationed overseas at NAVCOMMSTA Harold E. Holt in Western Australia I befriended a group of SEABEES, the Navy construction folks that ran the public works department on base.  Their division officer was universally hated by the group and after enduring him for two years, they came up with a fitting farewell gift.  The night before his car was crated to be sent on the two-month journey back to the States, they stuffed a bag of fish heads under the front seat.  Imagine what that would have smelled like when he retrieved it?

That’s what happens the longer one of your uncomfortable goes unaddressed.  Fish heads are nasty, but it’s better to handle them on Day 1 then on Day 60.

This week, think about those “fish head” tasks you’ve been avoiding.  Why not get busy doing the Worst Things First and free up your time, energy, and emotional health?




Don’t Make Your Solution More Complicated Than the Problem

Complicated or simple.I recently spoke to a group of learning and development professionals on the topic of performance management.  I always start the talk off with my Top 10 list of the Biggest Mistakes Made by Companies in Performance Management Programs.  I start with #10 (a la David Letterman) and then get down to #1.  With this group I let the suspense build by making the #1 mistake a multiple choice quiz question.  Can you figure out the biggest mistake?

  1. Confusing the ROI of training with the value-add of performance management.
  2. Juxtaposing the syntax of Kirkpatrick’s Model with the Reuterbaga Model of Performance Excellence® Model for peak performance enhancement.
  3. Combining mindfulness with strategic learning and thinking.
  4. Looping change management complexities with the principles of learning management and knowledge transfer.
  5. I don’t know.

The answer is actually “I don’t know” (which leads to the real #1 problem which is making performance management a once-a-year event).  In fact, the other four choices are just a bunch of training mumbo jumbo I threw together.  Everyone fell for the bait though and thought since it was the BIGGEST mistake, you would need the BIGGEST and MOST COMPLICATED solution.

In my experience, sometimes a complicated solution makes a complicated problem even bigger.  How can we tackle a complex problem more effectively and efficiently?  Try the following steps:

  1. Clearly define the problem.  A problem is simply a condition where current reality doesn’t meet our expectation.
  2. Narrow the problem down to its root issue.  Think actual condition, not symptoms.
  3. Identify if it’s a people problem or a process problem.  Don’t get these two mixed up.  If you blame a problem on people but they can’t be successful because of a broken process, fix the process.
  4. For people problems, use my 3-Legged Stool of Great Performance® model to figure out if it’s a Skill (needs training), Will (needs motivation, or Focus (needs guiding or coaching).
  5. For process problems, start by mapping out the process the way it currently exists using a flowchart.  Be honest here.  Show it exactly like it is.  Then draw out the ideal.  Where the discrepencies are, begin your intervention…
  6. …Which should always be done in small steps that should be tested.  Don’t tweak everything at once.  Small step, test, next step, test etc.

Don’t be afraid to admit the problem is simple and needs a simple fix.  Big problems are simply a whole bunch of little problems joined together in a tangled mess, much like that big ball of Christmas lights you have to untangle every November.

Problem-solvers are respected, compensated well, and sought after.  Why not work this week to improve your problem-solving skills.  Think simple, not simplistic and you’ll be on your way to solving those big, complicated problems.

5 Ways to Implement a Change Without Screwing Everything Up in the Process

change aheadOne of the most common calls we get at our company sounds something like this:

We are looking for some training on how to deal with change. Right now our company is undergoing some massive changes and we can’t seem to get the employees onboard with them. Do you provide any workshops that will teach our people to embrace this change?

Now since training only fixes issues with skills, the client assumes it’s a skill problem. It’s not though. Dealing with change as a skill is a reactive approach that can’t be taught once the emotions of the change have set in. Trust me on this. I have done WAY too many of these workshops when I worked with a large training vendor years ago. The best change adaptation tools won’t help if everyone’s attitude sucks. Most of these sessions turned into “bitch sessions” and attendees left worse off for the experience. The key to having a positive reaction to change is to implement it the right way in the first place.

Why is this so?

Any time you introduce a change to your organization, you shift the status quo. It doesn’t matter if the change is an improvement. Rocking the boat freaks people out.

Knowing this will happen regardless (and it’s doesn’t matter if the change is driven from the top either) means you’ll have to spend a huge amount of time planning and anticipating all reactions before you settle on your change initiative.

Based on my experiences with companies that have done it the right and wrong ways, I’d like to offer up five strategies to help your next change effort go over a whole lot better.

Here we go!

1. Communicate Well

In any change effort, communication is key. By being open and up front with people, you’ll be able to fill in gaps of knowledge with real, legitimate information. Here are some suggestions:

Good Marketing

Be sure any communication puts information in a positive light. Be very clear about the upcoming changes. Don’t hold back on any small details. Acknowledge the pain, but work to reframe it in a favorable light. (“doing these burpees is going to hurt like hell but imagine how good you’ll look in that Speedo this summer!”)

Allow People an Opportunity to Vent (productively)

We often expect people to handle difficult news professionally, but human nature dictates otherwise. Allow people an opportunity to vent their questions and frustrations.  This should be a facilitated event, with professionals keeping the discussion on track. “Bitch sessions” don’t work and often exacerbate the problem. Use good active listening skills and help manage yours, and the emotions of the people around you.

Discuss Rumors

The Grapevine is a tricky issue. 75% of what’s carried on it is usually true, which makes it credible enough to be believed as fact. When you hear rumors, be sure to address them with facts whenever possible. Ignoring rumors gives them credibility.

Be Sensitive

Empathy (as opposed to sympathy) is a helpful behavior for managers and supervisors. Don’t blow off your employees’ fears. Look at the situation through their eyes. Empathy means you listen intently and offer suggestions and help.

Be Optimistic

Optimism is an attitude. We have to choose our attitudes. You can’t expect employees to handle change well if you’re giving off negative vibes. Fix your own attitude before you try to fix those of your employees.

Don’t Ignore Your Employees’ Fears and Questions

Again, be willing to dialog with employees. Ask probing questions. Get their feedback. Establish an environment where they feel comfortable coming to you with their uncertainties.

2. Use Good Policies and Procedures

In any large change effort, you’ll need to lock in some really good policies and procedures to leave your supervisors and employees equipped for success.

Clearly Communicate the Program

This builds on Point #1. Let people know as much information as you have to give them. Don’t allow the Grapevine to do your job for you. Refer them to websites and information sessions as much as you can.

Set Up a Support System

If you’re implementing a new program or system, have the program representative take an active role in giving out communication. Set up a portal on your website to link employees to information,  training, and send out regular email containing program updates. Equip your managers and supervisors. They have to carry the torch for this program.

Encourage Managers to Have Open Conversations

MACK Worldwide’s Interactive Supervisory Skills courses teach the techniques to have these productive conversations using the principles of active listening and negotiation. Contact us if you are interested in providing this course for your managers and supervisors.

3. Effective Performance Management

Performance management is a critical element of a change effort.  Employees are required to show value-added in meeting the company’s goals and mission. Performance management is a constant process that requires a hands-on approach.

Set Clear Expectations

You can’t expect a marksman to hit a target he can’t see. The same applies to employee performance. Your job is to set clear goals and objectives for your employees at the beginning of the cycle and continue to check with them throughout the year. Don’t be vague – your employees need clear communication on your expectations for them.

Link People to the Mission

Do your employees know what your agency or company exists for? If not, educate them! Show them what you’re all about and how their job ties directly into the company’s success. All employees should be evaluated based on their contribution to the mission. Be sure they know what the contribution looks like!

Clearly Communicate Throughout the Year

Traditional performance management gives the goal at the beginning of the cycle and then rewards/punishes a year later. There’s no way to do a course correction in performance if the employee doesn’t know they’ve gone off course. Set regular intervals to check in with your employees and talk about their performance.

Dialog in Person

Don’t give important feedback (good or bad) through email. Let people know up front, in real time. Recognizing good performance verbally encourages more good performance. Addressing poor performance verbally (and professionally) when it happens is much better than waiting until the employee forgets about it.

4. Good and Effective Training

Training is often seen as a panacea for changes, but good training helps facilitate a process through difficult stages. Here are two approaches we recommend change efforts:


These courses should come first. They equip managers and supervisors to have productive conversations with employees and give them initial help in addressing performance issues.


These courses include anything that builds the skills needed in the new change. Be sure to equip employees before expecting them to successfully implement your change.

5. Management Skill Building

Well-prepared and equipped managers and supervisors will ensure your efforts will succeed. Part of this is training and the other part is attitudinal. Here are some suggestions:

Measure Success as What You Do Through and For Your People

This is the leadership component to management. Management in a large part refers to processes and functions but the key element is developing people. Do what you can to build and grow the most important resource you have, your people.

Keep Learning!

You’ll never learn all there is to know when it comes to dealing with people. People skills are hard to come by and even harder to master. Commit to studying one hour per day on managing and leading people. You spend this much time on technical skills, why not devote it to your people skills?


Managing change is difficult. It’s more difficult when it deals with people and in the way people are paid and evaluated. Keep these five principles as you implement these and other changes in your organization.

If you’d like us to sit down with you and help you think through your upcoming change initiative, just give us a call at (931) 221-2988 and let’s set up some time to chat!

How to Deliver a Winning Pitch

Interpreter ServicesYour syntax was convoluted.

It was November, 1980 and our new high school Bible III teacher, Dr. Bahnsen had just finished delivering a scathing analysis of the first essays we had written in his class, ending with the above critique.  What promised to be a fun Junior year at Newport Christian High School went quickly south as our former teacher, an affable guy named Mr. Smyth was fired and replaced by this taskmaster with a PhD in ethics from USC.  Bahnsen was brought in to up the ante in academic rigor and he delivered.  I had him for two classes and barely passed.

And yet I still had no idea what a syntax was nor what it meant to be convoluted.  Bahnsen had lots of knowledge but just couldn’t express it in a way that this 17-year-old could understand.  The message was lost in translation.

I recently watched an episode of Shark Tank where these two crazy smart scientists invented a really neat technology that they pitched to the investors.  The valuation of the company was at $40 million which extraordinarily high for the show.  The inventors tried unsuccessfully to communicate in their language (science) to the Sharks (who speak money) about why this product would change the world and would be worth the valuation (the language of regular people like me.)   They did not get an investment.  Even after multiple prompts from the Sharks, they couldn’t explain the product in any other language than science.

All of us have a mother tongue.  Mine is English.  We also have a conversational preference.  Some speak science.  Others data.  I speak story, simple story.  If we want to convince others of something, we need to use their language.  Since much of our success in business depends on others “buying in,” it’s important to follow some important steps to getting our point across.

  1. Figure out what you want to communicate.  This is key.  What are you pitching?  Is it a new idea, product, service, or concept?  Is it tangible or theoretical?  Is it brand new or a variation of the old?
  2. Figure out who you need to communicate the idea to.  Who is the decision-maker?  Who are they influenced by?
  3. Figure out what you want from that audience.  Support?  Buy-in?  Money?  Resources?
  4. Figure out the language of that audience.  Do they speak science or emotion?  Money or relationship?  Pragmatism or enthusiasm?
  5. Develop your pitch to encompass all the above information using the medium they prefer.

In a perfect world, everyone would speak and understand as we do.  They don’t.  Dr. Bahnsen probably realized this as our graduating class commenced in 1982 nearly half the size it was at the beginning of our Junior year, with none of us, as far as I could tell, any better at resolving ethical dilemmas or biblical truth than we were before he taught us.  The entrepreneurs on that episode of Shark Tank are probably working extra hard now to really quantify their idea in greater scientific detail to convince other investors.  It’s not going to work.  Unless they find some really rich, PhD-carrying investors.

Our ability to speak the language of others is the only way we can influence.  This week, take some time to re-think who you need to influence and look at better ways to communicate.  It’s the only way you’ll get your important points across, even if you do manage to unconvolute your syntax…

The Proactive Approach to Time Management

sign at the hospital points towards the emergency room entrance.When we lived in Maryland, we seemed to make regular trips to the ER at Walter Reed National Capitol Medical Center (formerly, and properly named Naval Hospital Bethesda!).  All of managed to get ill or injured outside of normal clinic hours so we’d often head to the ER out of necessity.

The ER was the last place I wanted to be.  Normally it’s packed and the wait time to get seen is at least 2-3 hours.  Then you wait another 30 minutes or so to get your drugs from the pharmacy.  I always packed my Kindle, iPad, and MacBook and prepared myself for a long wait.

Occassionaly though, we got seen right away.  Depending on the patient load, we were triaged in quickly.  Triage is the process of determining the priority of patients’ treatments based on the severity of their condition.  So if I go in with a sinus infection, I’ll be bumped down the priority list by someone having chest pain (I guess that’s fair) but it also means that it’s pretty hard to ever plan out your evening if you’re an ER staff.

One of the most requested classes I get is anything related to time management.  I’ve long advocated that you can’t manage time, only your reaction to it.  There is no magic solution for time management either since different personalities seem to all approach it in a unique fashion.  Maybe the best way you do it is by apply the principle of proactivity.

The ER is by definition a reactive entity.  There’s no predicting what comes through the door.  You can’t plan, only react.  When multiple patients come in, the triage process helps you sort out what’s most important, then of course that lineup changes if something more urgent comes in.

Proactivity can best be likened to a wellness clinic.  Wellness clinics work to treat proactively by encouraging healthy diet, lifestyle, and preemptive medical examinations.  By scheduling appointments at regular intervals, a person could possibly prevent conditions that would send them into an ER.  This would then allow ERs to care for only the most urgent illnesses (not my little sinus infection) and victims of trauma.

So how does this apply to time management?  Be proactive!  At the beginning of each day, visualize the outcome you’d like at the end of the day.  Some folks use a “to-do” list and put the steps down.  Others tend to follow a looser structure.  Regardless, by determining what’s most important early in the day, you can take deliberate steps throughout the day to get it done.  The alternative is to live out of your In-Box and by whoever calls you first.  Your day will be filled with emergent matters followed by down time trying to recover.  At the end of the day, you’ll still have those unfinished priorities but be completely exhausted by the reactionary approach you took to the day.

Outcomes in an ER aren’t always successful and they always cost – time, money, and sometimes more.  Proactive care may take time on the front end, but it’s possible you’ll gain much more later on.

This week, think of some steps you can take to be more proactive.  It might be more effective than how you manage yourself towards time now.  Who knows, it might even save you a trip to the ER!